Cookie-cutter is a great description of my early life. A strong Christian home led me to a young salvation experience. I sincerely repented of my life of hard sin and went to kindergarten a changed person. Music lessons, Bible studies and Christian school prepared me for the crazy Bible college scene. A wild bout of rebellion gripped me the day I skipped college and spent the day reading in the park. With the wild oats behind me I was ready to use my degree in education to teach business at a Christian school. In 1993 I married Cliff Frink, a pastor at Fellowship Baptist Church in Tampa. We were able to get our own home and I began the process of learning to function as a grown-up. Apparently as a grown-up you have to replace the toilet paper yourself. There isn’t really a fairy! Who knew?
What a joyful roller coaster ride we had. Marriage was great and awful and exciting all at the same time. Our church voted Cliff in as senior pastor not long after our marriage. As if I didn’t feel inadequate enough as a 21-year-old pastor’s wife, God blessed us with a baby. He cried from the time I brought him home until he turned a year old. There are no words for the depth of weariness you experience as a first-time mother with no sleep. What an amazing little gift we were given. Smelly Monster #1 was a tiny carbon copy look-a-like of his dad with a passion for ministry early on. Just shortly after I forgot the misery from the Year of Crying from the first monster, we found out we were expecting again, and soon after, our sweet laid-back Smelly Monster #2 joined the adventure. Right away we knew he would be the one to take care of us in our old age. His sweet disposition was in stark contrast to his football build.
Six years later, after a church relocation, a year of living with family, a borrowed motor home, 30-acre property purchase for the church, new church facilities to build and oversee, and a custom home to build, life found us older and wiser but still loving the roller coaster of ministry and life God had ordained. What a grand adventure. During this pivotal time, we again found out that we were expecting. After several complications, we lost the baby. This would be the first taste of loss for our little tribe. We learned to be grateful for every minute we had together. Home schooling was a great way to ensure we could spend time as a family. God has a wonderful way of showing his power. We were again blessed to find out we were expecting. Smelly Monster #3 arrived surprising us all by being a boy not a girl. No worries because he looked great in pink! Our tribe was complete. Smelly Monster #3 was an angel baby. His openness toward people and his willingness to be passed around (as long as he had his blankie) was amazing.
Several months after Smelly Monster #3’s birth, Cliff developed a chronic cough that was diagnosed as pneumonia. When the headaches began we were sent for additional tests and given the worst news of our lives…. stage 4 cancer. We spent the next five months choosing faith and trusting God. It was agonizing and scary, but comforting to need God that much. Cliff’s battle with cancer ended in ultimate healing on October 6, 2006. What a powerful testimony of faith and determination that was played out in Cliff’s life and his death.
After Cliff’s death, strangely enough the cranky mortgage company and electric company still wanted to be paid! This propelled me to make some difficult, but very rewarding, decisions. I went back to work in 2007 teaching and was able to enroll the boys in the school where I was teaching. Smelly Monster #3 wasn’t potty trained yet so he was truly smelly! Many days I would get a call from the office to my classroom saying they were sending someone to watch my class because of a “code brown!” I’ll let you put two and two together.
After many days of dragging sick smelly monsters to school with me because I didn’t have any additional sick days, I decided that I needed to move from my safe comfortable part time position teaching and get full time work. Growing Smelly Monsters tend to eat more, and cars break down, and septic systems have to be fixed…even if you are a single mom. What a blessing it was to find a position teaching virtually with Florida Virtual School, and be able to stay at home but work full time. This was such an answer to prayer. It meant many early and late hours grading and working, but it was so worth it to have a flexible schedule.
In 2009, I was able to compile the blogs and updates we posted during Cliff’s illness into a book called Choosing Faith Against the Odds. This published book is our tribute to God’s faithfulness. It showcases our successes and our failures. It embraces the raw pain and extreme times of joy we experienced. Ever joyful, Cliff seemed to turn to humor and antics to deal with the overwhelming emotion that comes with such a sudden diagnosis.
That year brought many changes. Choosing Faith Against the Odds was released and I had countless radio and other media events to market the book. I married again and I went from single mom with 3 Smelly Monsters to the Brady Bunch with 6 kids and all kinds of new dynamics. This was a huge transition but has been a blessing to all the Frink Jones gang. What a sweet addition Larry and his kids have been to our little tribe.
After the gang settled down we did a couple of things that really helped our family dynamic. Number one…. Larry built me a beautiful home office. This was a must for someone who works from home with that many kids. Blending a family is really hard work and can be a topic in its own right. No time now! Secondly, I changed positions at Florida Virtual and launched my own company as a channel partner with Florida Virtual. This was a huge leap of faith but has been so much fun. I worked from home but traveled quite a bit to the West Coast of the United States and supported and worked with schools, districts and states to set up virtual learning. The lessons I have learned by being a business owner have transformed the way I view life and ministry.
This past year, 2015, Larry and I decided that it was time to change the direction of the business and for me to stay home more so that the middle Smelly Monster could do a hybrid school schedule. In English, this means I spend a lot of time driving him from school to college classes and to work. This has been a bonus for me as driving time is prime mentoring time for the two of us! I’m not sure he would agree! LOL
We are committed as a family to share the joys and sorrows of living with loss and grief. God comforts us so that we can comfort others. This journey of grief drove us directly into the arms of Jesus. We are not conventional, or even highly functional, but we are joyful! Over the past six years of marriage, Larry and I have become convinced that less is more and that peace and joy come with Simple Living.
What a blessing it has been to be able to trust God enough to grow and change and adapt as the years pass. Just surviving was my goal, and God has allowed us to THRIVE! Join the Frink Jones gang along with hundreds of others in the Still Choosing Faith community as we address life issues authentically with humor and grace.